Were the 12 apostles really teenagers/young adults?

I saw this post on tumblr. Is there anything to back this claim up or refute it?


Hmmm…interesting. It’s possible; Mary was probably <16 at the birth of Christ. Being called by God does not have an age limit.

I don’t have time to search all the claims that that post makes, though I am interested in what other people say. :smiley:

I think its silly they say they are teenagers because Peter only found two coins - enough to pay for him and Jesus. I think that was an important lesson for Peter there, not necessarily saying that the others were teenagers.

The other apostles left their fathers and other family members to join Jesus. Some had first followed John the Baptist.

I think they were probably in their very early 20s - not 17 or 18. Matthew was probably in his later 20s - he was a tax collector and probably could afford the temple tax.

Interesting thought. Give the shorter lifespans at that time, they were probably younger than our traditional art usually portrays them. Not sure about teenagers, though.

My understanding is that the only one that was a teenager was John, who may have been between 12 and 13 at the time. The other ones some were probably young others maybe not that young. The two James were uncle and nephew which makes me think there may have been a good age difference between them. Many of them were Jesus’ own cousins so maybe they were not that far from Jesus in age. Also according to tradition the only disciples that were not married were John and Paul. The facts that the wives are not mentioned in the Gospels is not because they were single is the same reason as why many other facts from Jesus and his life were omitted… Because their marital status was irrelevant to the message. In my opinion is likely that the other wives were in the group of women that were constantly following Jesus.

Remember, 45 was considered very old in those days.

Mary was still a teenager. If you look at today’s norms where people don’t get married until their 20’s, there is nothing remotely special about Mary being an unwed virgin at 17. However, people back then often married at 14, which meant that Mary was special and unique to be in the state she was (when she was told that she would bear Jesus, she said that she had never known a man); there’s nothing unique in today’s world about still being single at 17, though I have my doubts about how unique virginity at that age really is.

Hmm… I was often told that Mary was probably more like 13 or 14 when she was told she was going to have Jesus.

This is what I’ve heard to. Recently I started to think that Jesus would have been conceived at Mary’s first ovulation, so however old that would be.

If she was as young as 13 or 14, what would be so special about her being a virgin? Even in those days when folks married young, being a virgin at that age wasn’t special; it was the norm. I always thought that she had passed the age when many girls married, having decided consciously to remain a virgin so that she would be able to bring our Lord into the world in the way which fit the writings of the prophets.

Remember, she was betrothed to Joseph at the time. And it wasn’t her decision who (or when) she would get married. Generally, marriages in 1st century Palestine (and even in most of the world until the 19th century) were arranged. Honestly, her age wouldn’t have been a big deal - the deal was that she had taken a vow of perpetual virginity (a vow that Joseph apparently knew about and accepted, because under Jewish law, if he had objected to Mary’s taking of such a vow, he could have nullified it).

St. Peter is thought to have died in 64 AD at the age of 69 or so, which would have put him in his mid to late thirties at the time of Jesus.

I was just about to say that.

45 was not old, Most people lived into their 60’s IF THEY SURVIVED CHILDHOOD. Even today, people who survive childhood tend to live into their 80’s, yet the AVERAGE lifespan is 72.

If someone dies at 1 year old, that takes one person living to 140 to keep the average life span at 72 (or 4 living to 100, or 9 living to 80). If a half of people die in infancy, then the average may be 40, but that is because the other half of the people lived to 80.

The Psalm 90 verse 10

Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.

Lifespans have not changed that much.

Life expectancy was much shorter, largely (but not entirely) because of infant mortality.

Certainly people were more likely to die of disease or violence, and less likely to make it to a really, really old age like 100+. And people were considered “old” at 50.

But many people are confused by the figure that “life expectancy was 30” and imagine than 30 was like 75 today, which just isn’t true.


The temple tax was for males 19 or older with the price being one half-shekel. Matthew only mentions one shekel. I think that it is a highly likely possibility that they were considerably younger than Jesus, Peter being around his late 20s or early 30s. Note hat Jesus called them his “children.”

Greek Orthodox Icons always follow rules when painting the Saints. As I understand it, the images are based on traditions handed down. So if you notice, they always paint Peter with gray hair. At the very least this indicates that Peter was an older fellow. They paint him older looking than the rest of the disciples.

As I understand it, most men did not marry until they were able to support a wife. This generally wasn’t until they were in there 20’s at least. Women were generally younger, so Mary’s age at the time of Jesus’ birth would most likely be several years younger than Joseph.

Note that St John the Baptist was not married and was in his thirties. He was not considered an old man, and neither was Jesus. I also don’t think either were considered unusual for being that age and unmarried.

And most Catholic icons of Peter have him bald. The thing is, though, that they’re always painted about the same age whether they’re with Jesus at the Last Supper or at their martyrdoms. When Peter was crucified upside-down, indeed he was an older man. But he wasn’t the same age as he was when he was eating the Last Supper with Jesus (yet he’s depicted as the same age in both situations).

Jesus called everybody “children.” This was pretty standard for a rabbi or teacher, although it was affectionate. Your disciples are your “sons,” because they carry on your thoughts and your works. It didn’t matter what age your disciples were. Usually they had to be adults, because kids had work to do around the house.

Here’s an interesting blogpost about the traditional Eastern ways to depict the apostles. The young ones are John, Thomas, Philip, and Judas Iscariot.

Hi Powerofk,

I referenced Orthodox images because they have very strict rules when it comes to how the saints should be painted in these icons. And since their images are based on traditions handed down, maybe their view of Peter was handed down from someone that may have seen him? I don’t know.

In the Catholic tradition, the rules are less strict, if there are any, when it comes to painting the saints. That’s why maybe Peter’s features/characteristics may be all over the place. Maybe Catholic tradition allows the artist more freedom to “express themselves?” Therefore, the artist may be trying to convey some message and that’s why they decided to make the saint look a certain way. I recommend the writings of Henri Nouwen regarding the painting of the Prodigal Son. When I saw a picture of that painting, I thought ok, “boring.” But I read the writings of Henri Nouwen on the subject and I could not believe how profound that painting is. Basically, the whole story and the theology of the prodigal son is told by that one image. The artist decided to paint certain things in particular ways to get the story and theology across. It’s a fascinating read and it’s still a “boring” painting lol.

But going back to the Orthodox images, their icons are a very beautiful tradition and my rough understanding of it is that the artists are actually in prayer and their act of painting the saint is a prayer and act of love. Hence, they are not “expressing themselves” type deal.

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